How do you beat moonballers?

I was playing this kid in a U16 tournament. Going into it, I was aware that he might be a moonballer, but I always thought that I could just beat them with solid topspin. I started off strong, went up 3-0, and he wasn't really moonballing, just mixing it in occasionally. But then at 5-2, he just moonballed every point. I lost a sudden death at 5-2 and 5-4, dropping the set 7-6(5).

I know usually it's like "bring him to the net, take it on the rise" etc., but he had good hands, and it was very hard to take it on the rise consistently. He wasn't a junkballer who'd just throw it up; he was moonballing with proper forehand technique and good topspin. With the steep moonball angle, you'd miss more than you'd hit a winner. I hit like 20 winners in the first set but missed a ton too, just ripping it when I got a ball that was like baseline area. Although I hit big, I can be solid when need be, and I was having 40-50 ball rallies consistently. I was hitting forehands that ripped through the court,( rising over the baseline, good pace,) and he was just popping it back up (still good depth, spin, etc.) His backhand was equally as adept at moonballing, believe me, I tried that avenue.

Sometimes, like I said before, he would give up a shorter one like baseline area, and I'd manage to finish the point off, but more often than not, I would make a mistake. I wasn't going for winners on every shot; it's just that he was an absolute wall, and I think a couple of rallies went over 100.

So, first set done, second set started. I got broken on sudden death, he held, I held, 2-1. Same story, I was getting by mostly because I have a pretty big serve. But then at 3-2, my muscles started getting really tight, and I think I pulled a calf muscle. The match was over 3 and a half hours, early in the second set. I also played a previous match like 4 hours ago that was 7-5, 7-6(4), so maybe that played a factor. But it was mostly just because I was putting in so much more effort into every shot I hit than my opponent, and still losing more rallies. Played through it, lost 7-6, 6-2, and left with a calf strain. His previous match was like 6-1, 6-1, so he was also less fatigued going into it. I take my electrolytes, protein etc, and I workout semi regularly, I'm a lot bigger physically than him.

Also, if I tried moonballing back, I'm pretty sure I would lose even worse, just cause he's probably been practicing and playing like this for who knows who long, and he still had a solid drive forehand where you can't leave it too short.

I know I'm a lot better and would've crushed him if he didn't moonball, but I just couldn't find a way. At U16, I honestly don't meet that many solid moonballers anymore; that's more a U12 thing. We're around a 7 UTR for context (I think I play better than my UTR, but UTR is a rolling weighted average, and I've got some bad results in the past still dragging it down).
 
Going to be honest here. You're coming off as quick to make excuses and unrealistic about your own abilities, which makes you easy prey for moonballers who don't make excuses and are realistic about theirs. Accept that right now you're not good enough to beat this guy and put in the hard, unglamorous work on your consistency, conditioning, and mental toughness until you get there.
 

Curious

G.O.A.T.
I was playing this kid in a U16 tournament. Going into it, I was aware that he might be a moonballer, but I always thought that I could just beat them with solid topspin. I started off strong, went up 3-0, and he wasn't really moonballing, just mixing it in occasionally. But then at 5-2, he just moonballed every point. I lost a sudden death at 5-2 and 5-4, dropping the set 7-6(5).

I know usually it's like "bring him to the net, take it on the rise" etc., but he had good hands, and it was very hard to take it on the rise consistently. He wasn't a junkballer who'd just throw it up; he was moonballing with proper forehand technique and good topspin. With the steep moonball angle, you'd miss more than you'd hit a winner. I hit like 20 winners in the first set but missed a ton too, just ripping it when I got a ball that was like baseline area. Although I hit big, I can be solid when need be, and I was having 40-50 ball rallies consistently. I was hitting forehands that ripped through the court,( rising over the baseline, good pace,) and he was just popping it back up (still good depth, spin, etc.) His backhand was equally as adept at moonballing, believe me, I tried that avenue.

Sometimes, like I said before, he would give up a shorter one like baseline area, and I'd manage to finish the point off, but more often than not, I would make a mistake. I wasn't going for winners on every shot; it's just that he was an absolute wall, and I think a couple of rallies went over 100.

So, first set done, second set started. I got broken on sudden death, he held, I held, 2-1. Same story, I was getting by mostly because I have a pretty big serve. But then at 3-2, my muscles started getting really tight, and I think I pulled a calf muscle. The match was over 3 and a half hours, early in the second set. I also played a previous match like 4 hours ago that was 7-5, 7-6(4), so maybe that played a factor. But it was mostly just because I was putting in so much more effort into every shot I hit than my opponent, and still losing more rallies. Played through it, lost 7-6, 6-2, and left with a calf strain. His previous match was like 6-1, 6-1, so he was also less fatigued going into it. I take my electrolytes, protein etc, and I workout semi regularly, I'm a lot bigger physically than him.

Also, if I tried moonballing back, I'm pretty sure I would lose even worse, just cause he's probably been practicing and playing like this for who knows who long, and he still had a solid drive forehand where you can't leave it too short.

I know I'm a lot better and would've crushed him if he didn't moonball, but I just couldn't find a way. At U16, I honestly don't meet that many solid moonballers anymore; that's more a U12 thing. We're around a 7 UTR for context (I think I play better than my UTR, but UTR is a rolling weighted average, and I've got some bad results in the past still dragging it down).
My coach told me that being able to hit shoulder high ground strokes with confidence was a very important skill to develop. Instead of moving back to hit them on descent or moving forward to hit on the rise.
 

eah123

Professional
There are a lot of good videos on beating moonballers. The one recent one by Intuitive Tennis is very good. For me, I focus on hitting 1 shot well (actually 2 if you include both forehand and backhand) which ends up not being much different from regular topspin ground strokes. That shot is dropping way back to allow the ball to drop to about shoulder height, and then hitting a high topspin forehand or backhand with as much force as possible. Generally this ball will bounce high with a tremendous amount of kick, making it almost impossible for the moon baller to hit a deep lob back. Then look for the short lob, step up and hit an overhead. This is one of my favorite videos on how to hit the high backhand effectively.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
Moonballing is a tried and true strategy. It works.

And it works especially well against players who don’t have the skillset to intercept the moonball out of the air with a swinging volley or punch volley.

Learn to take balls out of the air. Also learn to be comfortable taking the ball high above the shoulder and slicing down with a knifing slice on both wings.

A good moonballer can turn a match from a skill match into a physical leg endurance battle.
 
Moonballing is a tried and true strategy. It works.

And it works especially well against players who don’t have the skillset to intercept the moonball out of the air with a swinging volley or punch volley.

Learn to take balls out of the air. Also learn to be comfortable taking the ball high above the shoulder and slicing down with a knifing slice on both wings.
If the "moonball" rises over the baseline with spin it's incredibly hard to swing volley that, at least for me. And like I could wait for a short ball, but if he's a good moonballer, playing passively just waiting for him to make a mistake is just playing into their shoes, since if that's their whole gamestyle they would beat you in their game.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
If the "moonball" rises over the baseline with spin it's incredibly hard to swing volley that, at least for me. And like I could wait for a short ball, but if he's a good moonballer, playing passively just waiting for him to make a mistake is just playing into their shoes, since if that's their whole gamestyle they would beat you in their game.
You can try playing low slices to the bh. This will force him to throw up something different than the moonball that might be more in your comfort zone.
 

socallefty

G.O.A.T.
If the "moonball" rises over the baseline with spin it's incredibly hard to swing volley that, at least for me. And like I could wait for a short ball, but if he's a good moonballer, playing passively just waiting for him to make a mistake is just playing into their shoes, since if that's their whole gamestyle they would beat you in their game.
So, you didn’t play passively, but you had many 50-shot rallies? Usually good players have 50-shot and 100-shot rallies when doing consistency drills in practice, but most points should end very quickly in a match when good serves and returns set up quick points. Learn to serve and return more aggressively. Also, hit closer to the sidelines as it should not be possible to have such long rallies in a competitive match unless most balls are landing in the middle of the court.
 
So, you didn’t play passively, but you had many 50-shot rallies? Usually good players have 50-shot and 100-shot rallies when doing consistency drills in practice, but most points should end very quickly in a match when good serves and returns set up quick points. Learn to serve and return more aggressively. Also, hit closer to the sidelines as it should not be possible to have such long rallies in a competitive match unless most balls are landing in the middle of the court.
I didn't moonball per se, but I obviously was mainly just trying to keep the ball in, play with good depth and margin, I don't know if thats passive or not. I only tried to go for it when I got around or inside the court which didn't happen all that much. The thing for me is that all the drills I do on constructing points don't really apply because the ball just comes back 3 quarter court smack dab in the middle with a ton of height.
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
treat it like a practice session, just get it back deep, have patience, and wait for true 'no brainer' offensive opportunities on short balls etc. a true moonballer won't look to hurt you off the ground so you can take the pressure off yourself trying to come up with something special. on serve, go out wide often to try and give yourself a look at an open court to come in on next ball.

if you like playing tennis, just think of it as a nice opportunity to hit a lot of balls. moonballers are used to making other players miss. take that away and their game suddenly looks pretty weak, and don't be surprised if they start making some easy errors. like in any match...try to take away their 'favorite thing.'
 

slipgrip93

Professional
The thing for me is that all the drills I do on constructing points don't really apply because the ball just comes back 3 quarter court smack dab in the middle with a ton of height.

Maybe set up a ball machine or ask a practice partner to simulate those kinds of balls, to practice dealing with it. Here's also a good video on high balls, "How To Deal With High Balls To Your Tennis Forehand - Footwork & Tactics Included" :

 
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travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
A good moonballer is simply a highly evolved pusher.

He is trying to force you to assume all the risk.

Accept the challenge. It’s both a physical and a mental one.

There is no easy way out. Accept that you may need to play long points. But he’s moonballing for a reason. He’s moonballing because he doesn’t trust his strokes enough to take risks. He’s probably good, but not great, at passing shots.

So you need to carefully work your way into opportunities to exit the moonball rally in ways that favor your chances. It’s not easy, but practice makes you better.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
One potentially effective way to exit a moonball rally is the moonball-and-charge. As soon as you see your opponent is going to back up off the baseline to field your deep moonball, you can charge in with an advantage, even if your opponent sees you moving in.

It’s very difficult for him to hit a good pass or winning lob from 12 feet behind the baseline, so at that moment you’ve given yourself the advantage in the point without having to take a big risk.

The moonball-and-charge is most effective when your approach moonball is hit from deep, in order to use gravity as a weapon. It’s the opposite of a drive approach shot, where you want to use it from inside the court. So it sort of turns tennis strategy rules inside out, literally.
 

Jono123

Semi-Pro
OP I very much doubt you had 50 to 100 shot rallies with a moonballer. I'd be impressed if you made it to double figures.

The only people I see moonballing are ladies of a certain each parked on their respective baseline.
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
OP I very much doubt you had 50 to 100 shot rallies with a moonballer. I'd be impressed if you made it to double figures.

The only people I see moonballing are ladies of a certain each parked on their respective baseline.
not sure i have ever seen a 50 shot rally in person at any level tbh....maybe a handful on tour in last 20 years?
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
not sure i have ever seen a 50 shot rally in person at any level tbh....maybe a handful on tour in last 20 years?
It happens not infrequently when a moonballer runs into another player who refuses to miss, and both players are really good at passing shots, disincentivizing net attacks.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
The most basic way to measure velocity is to measure distance traveled in a known time. A video camera has a known time between frames. 1/30 sec usually for USA. If you take a video from the side of the ball's trajectory and have a known length object, measuring tape or meter stick, near the trajectory for length calibration, you can get the ball's velocity. (Video of meter stick can be done after the ball video.) Have posted on this several times with a few do's and don't's. One serve measure at US Open from side of court..

You can use the ball's diameter as a length calibration, but do your own error analysis.

Best easy method is to use the ball's diameter for length calibration and use high speed video where the ball travels only a short distance and the time is known from the camera's frame rate. The ball will have motion blur in the direction that it travels but not perpendicular to that direction. Measure that ball diameter. Measure far enough in front of the racket so that the ball is not distorted.

Say between two frames the ball travels 12.3 ball diameters. You know the time between frames. Measure your ball diameter or use average tennis ball diameter.

You want the camera about perpendicular to the ball's trajectory. Measure in two frames. Camera fixed on tripod.



Useful conversion - 100 MPH = 1760" / sec
You can use the Google Box as a calculator.
for camera at 30 fps __enter 1/30 see time 0.0333333333... sec
_60 fps enter 1/60 see time 0.0166666667 sec
 
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eah123

Professional

This video shows a pro player using the high forehand/backhand topspin technique I talked about in my post. See how it eventually results in a short ball. The only difference for a rec player is that you would hit an after the bounce overhead instead of the badass jumping forehand.
 

RyanRF

Professional
I know I'm a lot better and would've crushed him if he didn't .....
Yea this is pretty much never the case.

Accept that the reason you lost is not because you didn't know what to do. You knew what to do. You had a gameplan, and that gameplan was reasonable.

You are just not currently able to execute the gameplan on the level required to win that match. So just work on that and don't focus so much on the type of player you lost to and who was truly 'better' etc. Let that go.


In theory a good gameplan to use against Roger Federer would be to loop high topspin balls to his one handed backhand. If I played Roger though, this wouldn't work. I'd just get crushed. If I used this strategy against the 4.0 version of Roger it would probably be effective. If I used this strategy against the 4.5 version of Roger it might work a little bit, but I'd still lose since I'm not a 4.5.

If I used this strategy against the 3.5 version of Roger I would win. Then the 3.5 guy would log on to TT Forums and post "How do I handle high topspin with 1HBH?!?"
 
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fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I was playing this kid in a U16 tournament. Going into it, I was aware that he might be a moonballer, but I always thought that I could just beat them with solid topspin. I started off strong, went up 3-0, and he wasn't really moonballing, just mixing it in occasionally. But then at 5-2, he just moonballed every point. I lost a sudden death at 5-2 and 5-4, dropping the set 7-6(5).

I know usually it's like "bring him to the net, take it on the rise" etc., but he had good hands, and it was very hard to take it on the rise consistently. He wasn't a junkballer who'd just throw it up; he was moonballing with proper forehand technique and good topspin. With the steep moonball angle, you'd miss more than you'd hit a winner. I hit like 20 winners in the first set but missed a ton too, just ripping it when I got a ball that was like baseline area. Although I hit big, I can be solid when need be, and I was having 40-50 ball rallies consistently. I was hitting forehands that ripped through the court,( rising over the baseline, good pace,) and he was just popping it back up (still good depth, spin, etc.) His backhand was equally as adept at moonballing, believe me, I tried that avenue.

Sometimes, like I said before, he would give up a shorter one like baseline area, and I'd manage to finish the point off, but more often than not, I would make a mistake. I wasn't going for winners on every shot; it's just that he was an absolute wall, and I think a couple of rallies went over 100.

So, first set done, second set started. I got broken on sudden death, he held, I held, 2-1. Same story, I was getting by mostly because I have a pretty big serve. But then at 3-2, my muscles started getting really tight, and I think I pulled a calf muscle. The match was over 3 and a half hours, early in the second set. I also played a previous match like 4 hours ago that was 7-5, 7-6(4), so maybe that played a factor. But it was mostly just because I was putting in so much more effort into every shot I hit than my opponent, and still losing more rallies. Played through it, lost 7-6, 6-2, and left with a calf strain. His previous match was like 6-1, 6-1, so he was also less fatigued going into it. I take my electrolytes, protein etc, and I workout semi regularly, I'm a lot bigger physically than him.

Also, if I tried moonballing back, I'm pretty sure I would lose even worse, just cause he's probably been practicing and playing like this for who knows who long, and he still had a solid drive forehand where you can't leave it too short.

I know I'm a lot better and would've crushed him if he didn't moonball, but I just couldn't find a way. At U16, I honestly don't meet that many solid moonballers anymore; that's more a U12 thing. We're around a 7 UTR for context (I think I play better than my UTR, but UTR is a rolling weighted average, and I've got some bad results in the past still dragging it down).

The high school team I coach just finished their season on Saturday - our division finals came down to a singles match where my guy's opponent was moonballing. My player started out badly - I think he was up late the previous night having fun - and after losing a first set in a hurry, he settled in, found a little bit of a second wind, and started to play with a little more patience.

I could see that he wasn't going to out-push this guy (agree with our pal @travlerajm that moonballers are higher level pushers), so I told him to wait until he could either suck the other guy forward off the baseline with a short chip or get himself to the net behind a nice deep approach shot when his opponent gave him a short ball. Suddenly he went from being down 5-1 in his second set to being tied at 5-all. Unfortunately he was pretty wiped out and a point here and there didn't go his way - he lost the match 7-5 and that was that. Wish I had gotten him sorted out sooner, but I had seven matches all happening at once. Wah!!

That moonballer didn't want to come to net and whenever my guy pulled him forward with a shorter chip or slice, the guy would shovel a weak shot back to my guy and then scramble back to the baseline. That was when he was most vulnerable. If my guy was more than just a part-time high school player, he might have been able to better take advantage of that. But the combo of pulling the moonballer forward and also attacking the net when the opportunity was there was the most significant counter to that tactic.
 

eah123

Professional
I beat a doubles team with a moonballer this weekend. When I hit back high heavy topspin it worked very well to elicit a weak floater short ball that my partner or I could put away easily. I have seen this recommendation to hit a short chip or deep slice, but I’m suspicious that this won’t work in doubles because if it’s a little too high then it could be poached easily. In any case here’s a video on this method from the playyourcourt guys.
 
Moonballing is a tried and true strategy. It works.

And it works especially well against players who don’t have the skillset to intercept the moonball out of the air with a swinging volley or punch volley.

Learn to take balls out of the air. Also learn to be comfortable taking the ball high above the shoulder and slicing down with a knifing slice on both wings.

A good moonballer can turn a match from a skill match into a physical leg endurance battle.
^ this is literally all there is to say about it
 

ppma

Professional
You don't. You lose Roland Garros finals to them.

Now, I will share my exp. in recent tournament. So, first round and I was appointed with a 50s guy with 0 technique. Somehow he manages to put every ball on court with tremendous height, 0 pace, and insane backspin. I will not exaggerate when I say that balls bounced towards the net instead of towards the fence of my back. I was demotivated on beating such a player, so I tried to smack every lob that was coming, some after the bounce others in smashes, others in long volleys. Of course such an aggressive approach did work around 30% of the time, but being honest I have not ever had to play this kind of tricky opponent. The typical pusher, yes, but at least you can play with them using variety, but this kind of 0 quality ball demands specific training. So, my advice, is, get some practice on returning lobs. It's just it.
 
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ppma

Professional
>zero technique
>"every ball on court with a set of desired attributes"
Well, not every ball. Also, I do not think taking 4 seconds for the ball to land is a desired attribute. Neither that kind of backspin. Neither not being consistent on the placement (many balls without depth inside the service line).
In any case, technique is about knowing how to produce different ball quality outcomes. Doubting this was the guy's intention. In the previous cooperative warmup hitting he was unable to put two balls inside the lines, so...
 

ppma

Professional
The point is that it is the kind of ball that other players hit "badly" in a defensive shot. They should be easy to finish, but the rec player player hardly practice those, and therefore then they are easy to fu*k up.
 

dannyslicer

Semi-Pro

This video shows a pro player using the high forehand/backhand topspin technique I talked about in my post. See how it eventually results in a short ball. The only difference for a rec player is that you would hit an after the bounce overhead instead of the badass jumping forehand.
Unfortunately, 1% of players have strokes like that.
Has zero application to rec tennis
 
intercept the moonball out of the air with a swinging volley or punch volley.


Sorry, but any player under 4.5
80% of the time will make an error while attempting a swinging volley
swinging volley very low percentage shot in rec tennis.
I am under 4.5 and hit good swinging volleys at least 50% of the time.
 

ppma

Professional
If you are 55% on your swinging volley, and you can execute the subsequent finishing overhead after that 80% of the time, then you would win the point:

0.55 x 0.80 = 44% of the time.

Advantage moonballer.

That's the story, essentially.

Unfortunately, in rec. level tennis, i usual to see players with less fundamentally sound technique win matches (or better said, making the opponent defeat themselves) in these sorts of ugly ways.
Yet, this is just exposing the other player's lack of skills in certain areas, which is a fair tactic.
 

dannyslicer

Semi-Pro
That's the story, essentially.

Unfortunately, in rec. level tennis, i usual to see players with less fundamentally sound technique win matches (or better said, making the opponent defeat themselves) in these sorts of ugly ways.
Yet, this is just exposing the other player's lack of skills in certain areas, which is a fair tactic.
Nothing unforunate.
Rules of tennis do not mention technique.
Rules of tennis state hit ball over net, inside the line.
Winner is player better tennis, period
 

tlm

G.O.A.T.
not a moonballer, your shots are heavy imo...
that said, how would you beat you? :)
I haven’t faced too many guys with my style but I have played a few high school players that liked to loop back and forth.
I would try to hit high loopers to their backhand until I could draw an error or get a short ball.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
I haven’t faced too many guys with my style but I have played a few high school players that liked to loop back and forth.
I would try to hit high loopers to their backhand until I could draw an error or get a short ball.
Problem with trying to out loopy ball high school loopy ballers is that their legs are more durable than mine these days.
 
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